Atlanta Zoo Field Trip

When Danielle Green of the Atlanta Zoo spoke to our group in the spring of 2012, Margaret immediately worked to accept her invitation to visit and set up a field trip.

In October, we all had a great time and Danielle is a very knowledgeable, sharing tour guide! We learned about appropriate horticulture for the zoo. I had never really considered that there were plants that should not be in a zoo, not only for the animals but also for the visitors to the zoo. The education about different types of bamboo needed for the pandas; overwintering plants; plants appropriate for our zone – we all learned a lot of good information. Absolutely worth the trip!

You could hear the crunch!

Southern Highlands Reserve Field Trip – July 23, 2012


An adventurous group of Gwinnett County Master Gardeners traveled to Southern Highlands Reserve located in western North Carolina.  At an elevation of 4500’, summer is later there and we enjoyed cooler weather and different flora.  The average temperature for this date is still in the upper 70’s!  The wildflowers were in bloom and there was plenty of shade to make this July field trip a pleasure.

The Reserve’s 120 acres are dedicated to celebrating the natural history of the Southern Appalachian Highlands, and was well worth a beautiful drive with friends to just inside our neighboring North Carolina.  The Highlands’ Core Park is home to destination gardens such as The Woodland Glade, The Azalea Walk, The Wildflower Labyrinth and Vaseyi Pond.  These are manicured display gardens planted with native species and their cultivars.  The Reserve is home to a vast array of naturally occurring native plants and one of the largest natural stands of Rhododendron vaseyi.  The Core Park is surrounded by a 100-acre natural woodland, with a change in elevation of 1000 feet in a distance of 2000 feet, featuring many waterfall and cliff communities.

John Turner, who spearheaded the planning design and execution of the Southern Highlands Reserve since its inception, provided a presentation on the history and development of the area into its status as a “Reserve.”  Southern Highlands Reserve founder, Robert Balentine’s love of the Appalachian Mountains began long before he founded the Reserve in 2002, dating back to a boyhood spent hiking and camping in the region. After years spent immersed in the diversity of these mountains, he put his life-long passion to work to help preserve, cultivate and display plants native to the region and to advocate for their value through education, restoration and research at the Southern Highlands Reserve.

We were led on a private tour to experience the symbiotic relationships between this bio-region and the flora and fauna.   We were astonished at the diversity and beauty of native plants.  This is truly a gardener’s and photographer’s dream come true!  After our tour we had so many wonderful locations in the garden to enjoy lunch.  One unique spot is the Chestnut Lodge roof garden.  Roof gardens have long been established in Europe, but are a recent introduction to the green movement here.  Most roof gardens are really “green roofs” planted with sedums and grasses, but this roof garden is built over the Lodge and also serves as a patio.

The visit to Southern Highlands Reserve provided the opportunity to gain a better understanding of identifying eco-climates in our own garden so that we may ensure properly locating plants and the benefits of using more native plants in the landscape.

Gibbs Gardens Field Trip – May 2, 2012


Gibbs Gardens opened to the public for the first time on March 1, 2012.  The Garden is nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.  The Gibbs family has creatively planned and developed more than 220 acres of gardens that include 16 garden venues in the Manor House Gardens and the Valley Gardens.

GCMGA members and guests enjoyed a full day of experiencing the “harmony of nature.”   We took in the Manor House Gardens with seasonal floral displays, Rose Arbor, Woodland Shade Gardens and Nature Canopy Walk. After lunch, we also toured the Valley Gardens featuring Japanese Gardens, Monet Waterlily Gardens, Grandchildren’s Sculpture Gardens, Rose Gardens, Fernery, Pleasance, Daylily and Bride’s All White Garden.

Mr. Gibbs spoke to our group and provided information on his research and travels that inspired his development of a “world class” garden.  Information obtained has added to your knowledge of landscape design and provides greater skills in enhancing multi-seasonal interest.

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Smithgall Woodland Garden and McMahan’s Nursery Field Trip – March 22, 2012


Members had a unique opportunity for an exclusive preview before Smithgall Woodland Garden opens to the public!   Smithgall is a 168-acre satellite garden of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  It is located in nearby Gainesville, where collections of trees and shrubs are grown and studied.  The Smithgall Woodland Garden expands the Botanical Garden’s current native plant conservation program, and endangered plants are propagated on the site. Additionally, plants are grown from seeds collected in Asia and evaluated for their suitability to southeastern landscapes.

Many of us have purchased some of the wonderful plants propagated at this site.  We received an educational demonstration on propagation of plants by cuttings and seeds to learn how they do it.  After the demonstration, we received a behind the scenes tour of a new garden before the grand opening!

We then traveled a short distance to McMahan’s Nursery.  McMahan’s is a rare plant nursery specializing in hardy, unusual perennials, shrubs and trees for the southeastern U.S.  Owner Scott McMahan is an extreme plant fanatic.  He has traveled to China, Japan and many other spots in search of rare finds.  Tiffany Jones runs the nursery with Scott and she has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and worked at the Atlanta Botanical garden.  Scott and Tiffany provided information on specialty plants to help in determining the “right plant in the right place” in our gardens before making our selections.

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